What excites you most about joining the UCI Law faculty?
There is nothing more exciting than joining a new venture - the encouragement of experimentation, the breaking down of barriers between disciplines and areas of law, the rethinking of long-pursued strategies. UCI has all that, spurred on by an innovative and visionary leadership, faculty and staff. I saw all this from my first visit and wanted to be a part of it.
Why did you go into law teaching? What is your teaching style?
For ten years I worked in the challenging and stimulating environment of international law and diplomacy, in a place where teaching, writing and focused thinking about law and policy were actively encouraged. The State Department provided a natural jumping-off point for academics. Particularly in the wake of the debates in 2001 and 2002 over the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the conflict in Afghanistan, in which I was deeply involved, I came to believe that writing and teaching would be more rewarding for me, especially in the areas I cared most about - human rights and humanitarian law.
My preferred teaching style is to immerse students in complex problems in real-world settings. For me, the best avenue for that kind of work is clinical, working with students on specific projects, sometimes with partner organizations and sometimes on our own. But I also believe that clinical work in human rights and international justice must be coupled with readings, scholarship, and discussion to allow students to think hard about the legal and policy choices that lay behind the current institutions of international law.
Why did you go to law school?
As a high school student in the mid-1980s, I went on a trip to Poland with dozens of Jewish kids from around the world. It was one of the first big missions to the concentration camps - Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek, and others, along with the Warsaw Ghetto's remnants - and it triggered in me a lifelong effort to understand what led to the Holocaust, the world's passivity in the face of it, and the legal regimes and institutions left in its wake. From then on, law seemed to me to be a natural discipline, less for understanding the Holocaust than for building a framework of protection of essential human rights. I believed then, and now, that law is one of our greatest tools to ensure fundamental human rights and humanitarian norms.